The Hispanic Consumer in the U.S. in 2013

by Sergio Lopes

A surprising lack of awareness and some major communication gaps still exist today between U.S. corporations and the consumer market. We are on the verge of major demographic changes that are already affecting the country, and much of corporate America still seems to be, in many respects, dozing.

Currently, the United States is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Brands that want to serve this expansive community will always have to work hard to meet its needs and earn its loyalty. Fortunately for marketers and advertisers, the Hispanic population is heavily concentrated in just six states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, and more than 60 percent live in just ten cities. In all, 90 percent of Hispanics live in major metropolitan areas, and a full two-thirds of Latinos in the Unites States live above the poverty line.

Although nearly all industries can and should tap into Hispanic consumers’ needs, there are eight key areas in which Hispanics spend as much as or more than their non-Hispanic counterparts:

– Food consumed at home
– Telephone services
– Apparel
– Rental housing
– TV/Radio and other equipment
– Personal-care products
– Public transportation
– Cleaning supplies

Hispanics are a complex composite that varies by nationality, age, and economic class, to name a few factors. Their major communities are:

Californians: primarily immigrant Mexicans
Tejanos: Mexicans and Guatemalans who have created a cowboy culture
Chicago Latinos: primarily Mexicans and Puerto Ricans
Miamians: primarily Cubans, Nicaraguans, and South Americans
New Yorkers: comprised mostly by Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians, and Cubans

According to the brand guru Marc Gobé, of equal or greater import in understanding subcultures, however, are degrees of acculturation among Hispanics. Over a quarter of the Hispanic population in America remains unacculturated (28 percent). A determined and hardworking immigrant population, these individuals remain Spanish-dependent. Largely impoverished or working class, these Hispanics are working their way up from the bottom of American society.

However, the majority of the U.S. Hispanic population (59 percent) is partially acculturated, having been born in the United States or spent more than eleven years here. Largely middle-income and bilingual, these are the Hispanics who have successfully carved a niche in American society and cruise between American and Hispanic culture, watching Telemundo and Univision at home and telling jokes in English to their friends at work.

It is highly likely that future Hispanics will play a definitive role in rendering constructions such as “ethnic majority/minority” and “race” irrelevant in the public mind. In order to speak to this audience, brands and services must recognize the varying degrees of acculturation and English usage.

It’s crucial that marketers remember that the Hispanic market is very young. Their rich cultural heritage, which may extend from Long Island to El Salvador, encompassing many gradations of Anglo and Hispanic-American culture, puts them in a unique position to influence American society and appropriate trends and fashions from different cultures.

Sergio Lopes is currently VP, Latin America & US Hispanic at TAG Strategic. His background includes 21 years at Sony Music looking after Brazil and Latin America, followed by 3 years in advertising at Punto Ogilvy Advertising in Miami. Moving back into the music business, he joined EMI Music – Latin America for 9 years, then more recently as SVP for Capitol Records – Latin America. Lopes is an energetic leader and result-oriented marketing strategist, known for his deep understanding of the entertainment and consumer goods markets, having negotiated and closed digital music distribution deals with all possible major partners in Latin America and Hispanic US.

Posted by Ted • Monday, April 22, 2013 .